The next day, Capri logged on to her computer and opened her email. One in particular was startling.
From: Bez & Crew
Subject: We Have a Sighting
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but it appears Cherie isn't going to just passively sit around while we plan her downfall. Last night, the little twerp appeared on board my ship and tried to sell a sob story. The good news is, Thande got her scent good and strong, and there's nothing she can do to throw him off her tail. Well, maybe going to another dimension or something, but that's why we're working on this together! Anyway, thought you oughta know.
Over and out.
From: Capri Monroe
Subject: RE: We Have a Sighting
Received your note this morning, and am glad there are a number of us who can track her, and stay on the alert.
However, the fact she tried to accost you at your ship leaves me with more questions, unnerving ones. Like if she has actually managed to figure out we are associating., and how she did it. It's plain to see she just isn't one to obsess much. *Rolling eyes* So what story did she tell you, did she get abused horribly again or did she lose another relative to a gruesome murder?
Thanks for the heads up.
When Bez wrote back, she informed Capri that Cherie said something about wanting her evil magic taken away.
Capri wrote back, thanking her for that info, and it sounded like Cherie was still very much intent on tormenting NT and was probably trying to do it through them.
Pippi had been working late into the night, but that didn't stop her from getting up with the birds.
As soon as she heard activity in the house, she went downstairs.
Ariel and Capri were discussing the latest news to hit headquarters.
Pippi narrowed her eyes when Capri broke the news that Cherie had tried to board the Nautilus. "Was she lurking around, spying on us last night?
"I can't be sure of that, but it is suspicious." said Capri. "Have you found out anything more?"
"Yes. She's into some very disturbing, sick activities online, she has a different pathetic lie for just about every forum or guestbook the search has turned up, and I have yet to check NT's computer to see if Cherie has continued trying to harass her via email."
"I wish I had thought to look into this sooner, I could've made sure to prevent her from being there when we took down those other two." said Capri.
Pippi nodded. "I have turned what was found so far over to Matrix and Ameh, but this research is only just started."
"Did you find out anything about Cherie's guardian situation?" asked Ariel.
"Yes, much of that is posts on various web sites and groups where she talks about how abusive she says every guardian is or has been. Oddly enough, the enemies we were taking down when we first met her, weren't mentioned on any of these sites. There were several other names, most she only produced a first or last name, not both."
"Sneaky." said Capri.
"Yes," Pippi continued, "But on one forum, she mentioned the woman who was looking after her during the time she was trying to get NT to take away her magic."
"Cherie accused that woman of abuse!?" Ariel said, eyes going wide with shock.
"I'm not positive, but she gave the first name - "Bonnie. There was only one Bonnie among all the guardian names she posted, and Bonnie Greenslade is the name of the guardian we know of." Pippi's expression had become quite stern. "Bonnie loves Cherie. She would never abuse her. But she told me on the phone last night that Cherie just makes her feel so unappreciated, the way she just runs off, only to come home and cry about the latest thing to happen, and then she up and leaves again for weeks or months."
"That isn't right." said Ariel grimly.
Capri shook her head.
"It is disgusting." said Pippi.
Back at the Nautilus, Bez had just finished reading Capri's response. "Get a load of this, guys." She said, displaying the message on one of the monitors of the consol.
Sigma frowned. "I really don't like Cherie."
Bez smiled dryly. "You're not supposed to."
Matrix was looking over a file on another monitor. "Yeah, well we have even more to not like her for now." He displayed his file.
After skimming it quickly, Bez scowled. "Brat. How's your research going?" She called to Sigma.
Sigma was using one of the newly installed side monitors. "We've made progress, but it's going to take time to unravel the whole story."
Bez nodded. "Progress is all we need right now. As long as she doesn't try anything, we'll be fine." She stood from her chair, heading toward the cargo bay. "Be back in a sec." She told Matrix, who nodded.
As she entered the cargo bay, she found Thande in his standard position, silent. "Hey, Thande!" She piped. "How far off is she?"
"Far enough to not be a threat. To us."
Bez nodded. "Good enough. We have to riddle this trap a bit. Once we're ready to set it, how do we lure her in? I know I'm the bait, so that means we'll have to get her in a specific area, let her try to sob-story me, then we strike! All of us at once."
Thande nodded. His position changed slightly. "We may have another problem."
Bez cocked her head.
"Her location just changed."
Bez scowled. "I'm getting really sick of her poofing around like that."
"That is not the problem. Her scent is much stronger now, and it is mingling with the scents of others."
Bez narrowed her eyes. "Which others?"
Thande didn't have to tell her. He merely shook his head.
"If they haven't figured it out already, we need to give them fair warning Cherie's in their area."She frowned. "E-mail's too slow. D'we still have the Unicom link? Or their phone numbers?"
Thande nodded. "To the extent of my knowledge."
Bez smiled. "Excellent." She left for the control room. "Matrix!"
"Open a Unicom link!"
"Will do, Cap'n."
As she entered the room, Matrix handed her a small spherical device. "You sure you set it to the right frequency?"
Matrix nodded and smiled wryly.
"Good. Wouldn't want Sin to get worried-and he's probably too busy. Anyway. Activating link."
The center of the sphere glowed blue. "Hey, Capri, Ameh, NT, Ariel, somebody, we've got a bit of news for you. Cherie is in your area, pretty close by if Thande's nose can be relied on, which it can.. If our assistance is required, don't hesitate to call us up. Over and out.."
Bez looked at Matrix. "You think they heard the Unicom?"
"If they didn't, it'll just keep repeating until they do."
Bez smiled. "I hope it doesn't come to that. If we show up, Cherie can just poof away. At least they can poof right after her." Bez shook her head. "Oh what I wouldn't give for a disintegrater/intergrater."
Matrix smiled. "Bzzzzzz..." He hummed, immitating a fly.
"I know, I know! I just hope she doesn't cause any trouble."
"Gotcha," Capri's response was immediate. "I'll advise both Indy and NT not to venture out today. Over."
Bez's eyebrows rose but she smiled. "I read you. Good luck over there."
"Thanks," said Capri. "I think I have a plan to help Cherie get herself tangled up in her lies."
Some time passed as Pippi and Capri discussed their plan, then got NT's agreement and help, then got in touch with Ameh to let her know what was going on.
Pippi was the next to make contact through the unicom to Bez.
"Our plan is now in motion. I've fitted Capri with a bugging device and whatever it records should save into our main system. NT has also permitted her to borrow her Ipod and cell phone to look the part. She is going to try to find out what Cherie is up to, and the info should transmit to everyone here at headquarters. Capri has given me the unicom for safe keeping and I'll be the one at our end to use it for communication. If Capri communicates, it will likely be via email, text or voice via cell phone for a while.""
Bez's response was immediate. "Great. We should be able to tap into your mainframe and observe from our end...why do I feel like this is going to be like watching a bad drama?"
"Even worse, since it's actually happening." Pippi said grimly.
By early afternoon, Cherie had just eaten lunch, and decided to go mall-crawling, hoping to run into NT somewhere. Her morning hadn't been very productive by her standards, no one had noticed her, or had any time to stop and talk to her, so she couldn't get any sympathy or get to see faces become heart-broken. She had sent NT email upon email since the day before, but didn't get a single reply.
On the way to the mall, she noticed a girl sitting on a park bench, reading a book,. She went up to her, expression turning sad. "Hi, what're you reading?"
"Just an English book I'd like to study, if it's included in next year's curriculum," came the reply.
"It looks like - can I see it a moment?" Cherie asked, a quaver in her voice.
"Sure." the girl handed her the book, but didn't take her eyes off Cherie.
"Oh," Cherie sniffled and gave the book back. "The Great Gatsby was the book me and my best friend were studying last year."
"Well, it's kinda boring," said the girl, "But it's not the worst. At least you and your friend studied it together."
"But we won't be any more." Cherie said. "She was..." Cherie swallowed.
"She was what?"
"Kidnapped the day after school ended!" Cherie wailed.
"Oh, no!" the girl put her book aside. "That's horrible! I hope they find her and she'll be okay."
"They found her." Cherie replied, and went through several lung-heaves, tear-spills, gulps and sniffles before finally saying, "She was killed!"
"OMG!" said the girl, who put an arm around Cherie. "Oh, man, I am so sorry for your loss!"
Cherie went on to describe a prolonged brutal attack and killing, complete with an account that the killer had been sick enough to record the agonies and send tapes to the family as well as to Cherie.
But Cherie didn't see "NT," who was hiding among some trees and listening.
"Tapes?" Capri thought to herself. "I've got to find out more about them somehow."
The other girl was hugging Cherie close to her by now, but was unable to say much more than "I'm so sorry."
"I was kidnapped along with her, but I managed to get away by pretending to be already dead. When he took her away, that was when I made my escape, but I couldn't save her!"
Again, the other girl expressed sorrow, and was crying by this time.
This lasted quite a while until they began to do some small talk and exchanging of email addresses and phone numbers etc.
When Cherie was busy with that, the inconspicuous "NT" moved around, came out from behind the trees and headed for a picnic table to sit and relax.
It was Cherie who broke off the conversation with the other girl by claiming she had to go run some errands.
The other girl said she'd be leaving too since she really didn't feel like reading any more. She left.
Cherie watched her go, and smiled when she was out of sight.
Looking around, Cherie was surprised to see NT at one of the picnic tables.
She quickly ran over and grabbed hold of NT before the girl could realize what was going on and make an escape. "NT, I'm so sorry about yesterday in the mall, I know I shouldn't have brought it all up again but - "
"But you're doing it again, Cherie!" came the exasperated retort. "Let me go!"
"NT, please!" Cherie reached out to give NT a hug. "That place where I took you on that mission - "
"Shut up!" exclaimed NT, "I don't know what part of stop you don't understand!"
"My mother was murdered there! Slavery has been reinstated, by the people who rule there now, they're the ones who killed her, I need your help bringing them down!"
NT sighed. "If I never set eyes on that place again, it'll be too soon!"
"I know," Cherie gave NT another hug, "but please, you must know you're the only one I can turn to!"
NT pulled away. "Why me? Don't you have any other friends - oops, that's right, Tonya's in the slammer along with Nick and Miranda. As if they'd help stop slavery, right, what am I thinking?"
"I was sorry for Miranda, and I never really was friends with Nick or Tonya."
"Miranda doesn't deserve anyone being sorry for her. You got conned, Cherie!"
"I know you hate her because of what she did to you, but she really is sorry - "
"Bullcrap!" NT spat. ""If you showed a quarter of the respect and understanding toward me as you do them, I might actually believe you really cared!"
"No!" NT stood up to leave.
"C'mon, Cherie, stop jawing and take me there already." Capri was thinking inwardly.
"This was my mom, NT, and maybe Tonya and miranda were self-centered brats who didn't care about slavery - "
"All right, they were! But I know you're better than that! I know you could help! My magic just causes problems, you know better how to use it."
"It wasn't always that way." said NT.
"Please, I really need you to go back to that world. If you don't like it, you can just leave, and I'll do whatever I have to, even if it means taking some abuse to - "
"Don't start that again, Cherie, you made my skin crawl the last time and you're doing it again!"
But finally, Cherie just grabbed NT's arm, and they were somewhere else.
"Whew." Capri sighed inwardly.
The old buildings were still there from the slavemarts, and once again, Cherie, with plenty of hugs for NT, walked her toward them, saying, "It's almost time, and whatever happens, don't blow a gasket in there."
"Oh, brother, as if you haven't and over much smaller things, please!" NT rolled her eyes.
"Wait here, I'll be right back." With that, Cherie rushed off.
NT made herself invisible and took after her.
Cherie ran into the main building, "She's here," she said to someone there who apparently was heading this nasty affair that was about to begin.
There was a flurry of activity as various people were assembled, and told to get into costume, and Capri as the invisible NT heard various people discussing who would play slaves and who would play the traffickers.
"Wow, not even this is for real." Capri thought. Quickly she returned to where NT was supposed to be waiting, and became visible again.
"Holy crap, what a messed up..." Ameh watched as this played out on her own monitor. "Cherie's even sicker than I originally thought."
Aboard the Nautilus, similar reactions were taking place. Bez scowled. "This is one sick lady." Sigma nodded emphatically.
"Shh! Something's happening." Matrix hissed.
Eventually, Cherie came back, and escorted NT to a seat at the event. She continued trying to hug NT to keep her calm, hoping she could make her sit through it and be utterly sickened. In addition, Cherie just couldn't seem to stop talking about her sad life and what new developments were happening because of this new corrupt government.
NT did what was expected, protesting by saying she didn't want to hear any more about it etc.
As soon as the "market" got underway, NT reacted the way she had before, by causing a storm via magic, cancelling the market.
Cherie yelled at NT for her actions. "Now we're really gonna get it! You shouldn't have done that!"
"You said you wanted me to stop slavery, well, I just did, and now you're mad at me, so which is it? Do you want my help or not!?"
"I do...It's just that - " Cherie sighed, unable to think of what to say next. She couldn't look at NT's face any more. On it was an expression of victory as well as outrage. NT didn't look crushed, because Cherie had not succeeded in making her sit through what for all in tents and purposes, looked like the buying and selling of human beings.
She turned from NT and walked away. Cherie then wasted no time seeking out the ruler of that place via her magic capability. She let that ruler know that the person who had vowed would never come back, had, and that meant the end of this ruler's reign.
NT followed her.
Cherie threatened this ruler that if she didn't step down, NT would make sure she did.
NT was right there, quietly listening as Cherie's demeaner had turned much more mennacing than ever seen before, and the ruler of this little world actually appeared to be scared.
NT didn't wait too much longer to make her move. She turned the current ruler into a rock and then put her in one of her pockets.
Cherie congratulated NT on a job well done, and told her she could become the next ruler.
NT declined this, of course, so that left Cherie to take over and become the new ruler. This was what Cherie had been counting on.
Cherie suddenly became a bossy, take-charge sort of person, and took to her new position a little too well. It didn't jive with the sad, ego-crushed persona she had been maintaining up to this point.
Ameh checked the monitor at her place. Everything was saving, and recording well. But her eyebrows raised as she watched the transformation of cherie. "So that's what she's after." she texted Pippi and Bez, "I pity those poor people she's about to rule over."
"Yeah. I can tell you, that place is about to run into a lot more problems." Bez replied.
Cherie got busy planning to address everyone in her newly acquired domain, she used her magic to message everyone throughout the land to be at her court the next morning to hear her acceptance speech of the position. She asked NT to be there as well and sign all the necessary documents as she had been the one to help Cherie take over.
NT agreed reluctantly. Inwardly, Capri was dying to see what was going to happen now that Cherie ruled her own little empire.
That night, Cherie put NT up in a room adjacent to hers in the small palace. Cherie ordered some of her new subjects to destroy as many of the previous ruler's valued posessions as they could, and she actually got angry at NT for objecting and daring these people not to destroy perfectly valuable things.
"NT, maybe you've forgotten that this was a person who had my mother killed! I don't want her stuff around!"
"And I don't want you taking that tone of voice with me, Cherie!" NT shot back savagely, glaring at Cherie. "Don't you forget who you claimed you couldn't do without in this venture!"
Back at home, Pippi grinned as she saw this exchange on the monitor. "If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that really was NT."
"I could have you - " Cherie started, but checked herself. She realized that as long as NT was still there, she would have to watch her own conduct. "I'm sorry NT, but you don't know how much it hurts having her things around me." a tear rolled out of her eye.
"Then you can always give it to me, I could sell it and make a fair proffit, or put it toward charity, something.
Cherie hugged NT. "You're such a good friend, NT!"
NT pushed Cherie away.
"You're still mad at me." Cherie said sadly.
NT rolled her eyes and sighed.
That night, Cherie lapped up all the pampering and catering that was done. Her new subjects put her to bed, fluffed up her pillows, gave her cool drinks while she reclined, and as she told them all about her abuse, the more they fussed over her.
NT was happy to get the next room to herself, she refused any tending by Cherie's subjects. But she discreetly watched as Cherie was getting pampered to the point of ridiculous and nauseating.
NT took out her cell phone.
Pippi's rang. "Hello?"
"Hi Pippi, well, you've probably seen some of what's gone on."
"Yes, unbelievable. But then again, this is Cherie."
"Have everybody tune in, including NT and Indy when morning comes. Tell NT all the slavery nonsense is over and it wasn't even real. You will absolutely not believe your senses if and when the Pledge of Loyalty to Cherie is read. I'm going to keep looking around here as much as I can, but I've a feeling we've only scratched the surface. Cherie said something to some girl in the park today during her sad story about a best friend's death. If Cherie lured somebody into a trap and got her killed, she'll be wanted for abduction and murder as well as all the- "
The line went dead.
"NT?" Pippi asked. "You still there?"
NT hung up her phone just as the door to her room opened.
"Her Majesty wants you." a timid looking woman said.
"Whew." Capri sighed inwardly, that was close.
"Did she say why?"
"No, she just wants to see you before she goes to sleep for the night."
NT pocketed her phone and followed the servant, who left her at the door of Cherie's room.
NT didn't knock, she just opened it and went in.
Cherie's first reflex was to glare and she was just about to start a tirade about how no one should enter without permission, but then she saw who it was.
"I was told you wanted to see me, but it sure doesn't look that way." NT said pointedly.
"NT, I need more help from you," said Cherie. "I have a lot of video that you could use to help me take down the people who abused me since I last saw you."
"You expect me to sit and watch all that? Forget it! I told you before!" NT raised her voice.
"I know, but please, NT, it's the only chance I have! Starting with the guardian I had when you first met me. The enemy you were taking down back then wasn't the only one to abuse me, she did as well, especially after that!"
"Who? Not Bonnie Greenslade..."
"Yes, her! I need you to bring her here so she can be one of my subjects, either that or I'll go and press charges."
"You've got tapes of her?"
"Not yet, but I'll get evidence she abused me soon. It means I'll have to come back to your world to get it. But there are other abusers. Kidnappers. I need you to watch the tapes and help me catch them."
"On one condition, you let me take all the tapes back to my world. I don't have a video machine here with me and - "
"But you could watch them now, tonight."
"I said NO! It's in my world or not at all!"
Cherie pouted a moment. "Okay, have it your way, the tapes are in that drawer." she pointed from her bed to a large chest.
"Hmmmm." Capri thought, as NT moved to get the tapes out of the drawer.
In a moment, the sizable pile she stacked on the top of the chest, vanished.
"I'll have to poke around some more in here when she's out." Capri thought.
"That will be all now, NT,"
"'That will be all, NT', You sound just like a typical stuffy snob." NT made a face at Cherie before slamming the drawer and marching out of the room.
"I didn't mean it that way NT, I'm sorry! Please!"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever, good night!" NT slammed into her own room to spend the night.
Cherie turned over in bed and sighed. "She's getting harder to manage. What am I going to do about her?"
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